Engineering Elective: Interview with Ms. Rywalt

Catherine Yan ’24

 For the 2021-2022 school year, Berkshire School welcomed new Engineering teacher, Ms. Corinne Rywalt. I sat down with her for a quick Q&A about the Engineering elective,  a signature course that students have looked forward to each year since its establishment in 2015. 

Q: In your own words, what is the Engineering elective?

A: The Engineering elective is a way to explore learning through a different lens. It does not purely lecture material, and it’s not strictly hands-on. It’s a mixture of project-based learning, learning by doing, and learning through collaboration. It has a way to apply new disciplines that aren’t just science and math. It implements the broad approach of “how do we think about problems?” And “how do we learn to solve problems we face everyday?” and how can we tackle those with the knowledge and experience we have from STEM.

Q: What are you excited about in Engineering for the upcoming year?

A: I’m excited to bring more of the interdisciplinary aspect for the upcoming year. Something I’m really excited to do is bring in other classes and other teachers and really get a broad range of applications instead of just wiring or just doing the coding. I really want to give a hands-on experience and approach on different aspects and give a mindset shift instead of just building things. I want to take that extra step and be exciting.

Q: What is it like to teach as someone who recently graduated?

A: It’s scary. I want to give students something better than what I was given in school. I loved my high school and college, but being in education and coming out from a student perspective helped me use my own experience to learn from the mistakes of my past professors and my past teachers. I think I know what works for people who are closer in age to me. It’s also fascinating to be able to jump in and to relate to my students on that level instead of being the super adult who looks like they have everything together and looks like they’ve been put together for so long. I’ve learned to be a little bit more human, and I like that. 

Q: What’s your favorite part of the Makerspace? 

A: Honestly, this will be a little bit cheesy, but it’s just the fact that we have tables. I like how it’s collaborative, and it’s not a work-at-your-own-desk sort of thing. It’s very open, very hands-on, and we have the opportunity to move and feel and change what we’re doing at a moment’s notice. 

Q: What’s an engineering project (in or out of school) that you find inspiring? 

A: Anything humanitarian engineering really inspires me. I’m not super interested in civil engineering or infrastructure, but things like urban planning and creating and innovating and changing how everyday people interact are cool. Mainly, I like how parks and train stations may be engineered differently to improve people’s daily lives. 

Q: What’s your favorite part of the engineering design process?

A: I’d say designing and redesigning is my favorite because it takes a little bit of the scientific research process and knowing what went wrong and having those results, and being able to improve and make a difference. Often in engineering research, you don’t get that next step; it’s kind of just: “my research worked or didn’t work, and this is what happened,” and you have to do a whole new project to redo it. Whereas in engineering, you get that opportunity to design over and over again. 

Q: What’s one thing that you love about Berkshire so far?

A: I love the level of community involvement. Coming in as a new faculty member, everyone has been super welcoming and inviting; I have not felt alienated by anybody at all. Everyone is willing to show me the ropes, get me more acclimated, and display the feeling that I belong here. There are so many friendly faces just stepping outside, which is awesome. 

 We are ecstatic to welcome Ms. Rywalt to the Berkshire community! It was intriguing to learn more about Ms. Rywalt’s background, her engineering inspirations, and her hopes for the school year.